Joe Castellano shares how he went from a Neurofeedback Private Practice to a Neurofeedback Company! He is on the cutting edge of this new field of biofeedback. His company is a leader in the process of teaching self-control of brain functions to clients and other professionals in the field. It is never too late to step into a new field of study and expertise.
About the 6-Figure Practice Program:
The Six Figure Practice with Sasha Raskin, is an online program and community for helpers such as counselors and coaches, who are building their private practice. If you’re looking for a clear, step-by-step road map for creating and marketing your private practice, you're at the right place!
Free resources to grow and market your counseling private practice or coaching business:
Free 22 minutes crash course - "How to Create a Thriving Counseling / Coaching Private Practice": https://www.the6figurepractice.com/free-22-minute-crash-course
Free resources about marketing for therapists and marketing for coaches: https://www.the6figurepractice.com/blog
Free 30-minutes strategy session with Sasha Raskin: https://www.the6figurepractice.com/schedule-a-free-30-min-strategy-session/
Our accelerator program for creating a 6-figure business:
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My name is Sasha Raskin. I’m a Number 1 Best Selling Co-Author in 12 Countries, a Doctoral student in Counseling Education and Supervision, a coach, a psychotherapist and an adjunct faculty at a graduate counseling program at Naropa University.
One of the things I’m enjoying the most is helping other therapists and coaches build their successful private practice so that they could actually help the clients they were taught to help, and thrive themselves. I’m almost always fully booked, so my ability to work with individuals is limited. That is why I’ve created this program to deliver powerful results and create a community where you will feel supported by each other!
This program's primary goal is to help you build a thriving private practice, in a fun and authentic way. Counselors and coaches invest an incredible amount of time, money, and effort into building their helping skills. However, when their training ends, they usually find themselves lacking the business skills that are needed to start and run a successful private practice, feel isolated, discouraged and not knowing where to start.
I believe that to be truly helpful to others, therapists and coaches have to learn to thrive themselves and definitely know how to get clients whom they can help.
This is where this program comes in. If you're willing to learn and work hard, a 6-figure private practice is within your reach in a year - 2 years. This program will give you a clear outline, and detailed instructions on how to get there.
Opening A Private Practice In Neurofeedback And Growing The Company With Joe Castellano
Sasha Raskin: Hi, Joe.
Joe Castellano: Hey, Sasha. How are you?
Sasha Raskin: I'm doing very well, having kind of a long day in the middle of doing a day-long exam for one of my PhD classes. So at the end of my master's program I thought, "Well, I'm done with studying." Well, that was not the case.
Joe Castellano: It's self-selected suffering, Sasha.
Sasha Raskin: Uh-huh, yeah. So a good way to start would be if you can tell us what do you do, who do you help and how. And then we can have a conversation about the wonderful neurofeedback business that you built on your own and it's completely thriving even during a pandemic. So we'll get into that, but kind of as an introduction ...
Joe Castellano: Sure. My name is Joe Castellano. I am a master's degree holder in somatic psychotherapy from Naropa. I'm a licensed professional counselor candidate, hopefully I'll have my NCE exam behind me and my license fairly soon. I'm a board-certified neurotherapist or neurofeedback therapist if you will, a board-approved mentor of neurofeedback. And I'm also a qEEG technologist which is a quantitative electroencephalography technologist, so that's a credential to read and interpret brainwave patterns and produce maps/reports that describe what I'm seeing. And then I do, I run a clinic where we do several different kinds of neurofeedback, we do amplitude training, low frequency training, alpha/theta, live complexity training which I'm really excited about, as well we run stimulation so that's direct, transcranial direct stimulation, PCBS, also TACS, transcranial alternating current stimulation, random noise, map, audio/visual entrainment and biofeedback.
So I've been out of grad school for a couple years now, and for about a year and a half of that I've been on my own building my own practice.
Sasha Raskin: That's wonderful. So you do a lot of brain magic, and kind of in a different way than therapists do it, going kind of beyond talk therapy. And what I love about your approach is that you combine a lot of studying and making sure that you're as effective as you possibly can using the latest cutting-edge approaches with some really good business skills, right?
Joe Castellano: I'm sure I'm going to pat myself on the back for that, but I'm doing okay.
Sasha Raskin: Well, yeah. So maybe you can start with what led you to start your own business, why not just work for someone? Wouldn't that make things easier?
Joe Castellano: Well, so walking out of grad school I was hired to run a clinic for a Denver-based neurofeedback company, a very successful pair of business partners who started that. And it made a lot of sense to me walking out of grad school to step into a job. I mean, sort of a unique situation because of my background, but to go and work for somebody else and get a year of experience on their dime, on their risk and get a lot of clinical experience without being completely on my own. That was my choice. And then once I got there I was like, "All right, it's time for me to go."
Sasha Raskin: How did you know it's time?
Joe Castellano: How did I know it was time? My vision of where I wanted to go was something that was mine and they had a vision of where I fit into their team and where as a clinical director I would add value running a clinic, and they had somebody who did their own analysis and I was like, "I'm really committed to doing my own analysis. I've been very well trained in how to do this. And I still have a ton to learn, it's the brain, so if you're not committed to really being a student for the rest of your life it's probably not the right direction to go." And I really wanted to be in control of the analysis and in control ... I already had control of all the treatment planning, but I wanted to feel more confident that with neurofeedback we're not ... yes, I'm also trained as a therapist and I do use my counseling skills quite regularly, but we're not credentialed to prescribe medication but we are credentialed, I am credentialed, to prescribe treatment that modifies the behavior of someone's brain including running current through their brain.
And when you're going to run electricity through somebody's brain, feeling like you really have autonomy as a clinician to do it your way is a lot of responsibility and shouldn't be taken lightly. But I reached the place where I felt I was going to do better financially on my own and would have more autonomy to work when I wanted to work and if I wanted to carve out that on Wednesday morning I'm going to go for a hike and like this is part of my self-care and Wednesday at sunrise I'm going for a hike and I'm going to adjust my schedule because I want to, and there's a piece of that level of independence that really works for me.
Sasha Raskin: So that's ... sorry, go ahead.
Joe Castellano: No, I mean, we're sitting here at four o'clock on a Saturday and I'm finishing up reports. And I don't mind being here on a Saturday, but in the middle of the week to want to go for a two-hour hike and start my day that way like it does a lot for my sense of wellness and my enthusiasm to work professionally in service to other people.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, I think that's a big one, at least from the counselors and coaches I speak to who went into private practice, freedom being a big value. And the last one, the time freedom you just mentioned, that's kind of a pretty clear one for many. Like, I can choose my own hours and I don't have to work Saturday, but if I want to and I do it for my own choice, and if I don't want to work on Wednesday that can be my day off, right? So that's the difference. But you also mentioned another freedom which is clinical freedom.
Joe Castellano: Totally.
Sasha Raskin: I can choose to work with clients the way I think would be best versus being limited.
Joe Castellano: And there are resources, and for people who want to go the institutional route, I don't think that's a bad way to go, but I spent a lot of time in a prior career in corporate life and operating inside a bigger system, like there's resources, there's people who can help you but I've been able to build ... I'm part of a clinical group that meets every two weeks with Jay Gunkelman and we all bring really unique, bizarre EEG and he helps us go through it. And on the other weeks we have a study group and we're tackling advanced concepts in electroencephalography. And so I've been able to build the resources that I feel I need clinically and with people I like working with, and so the resources and support are there, I built that for myself. And a lot of it I really just like building my treatment plans and my approach to doing the analysis is ... it's comforting to me and I really enjoy the work.
So having the freedom to do it my way and to combine. I really enjoy mixing neurofeedback and biofeedback and brain stimulation and biofeedback and monitoring people's physiology while you're running current through their brains and seeing how their nervous system is tolerating it and things that are ... it's not that innovative, but it really it's a bit ahead of where most people are at and they're thinking about this. And to be able to use like clinical experiments in a responsible way and go places where like my intuition tells me that when I'm running this stimulation protocol the person is just not responding as well somatically, their body's not tolerating this the way I would think it would so let's just put electrodes on them and monitor this and get real data. To look at it and go, "Okay, like where's the right level of where the intensity," like we want a certain intensity for a clinical serving of the stimulation technology, but not at the expense of the autonomic nervous system. And to be able to just do these things without having to clear it with anybody.
Let me choose my words wisely here. I mean, these ideas are pretty well vetted. I don't want people to go off and think they're going to try this at home.
I've had training in all of these things and I'm putting the pieces together in ways that are I believe innovative. I'm not encouraging people who buy home biofeedback and neurofeedback equipment to start really experimenting on themselves. That's not responsible, so please hear me on that.
Sasha Raskin: There's this stigma about going into private practice that it would be very lonely and you'll be isolated from the other practitioners around you. And you're saying, "No, I actually created those communities for myself by choosing ..." Well, I think some of them you started, some of them you joined and it kind of changed throughout the years. And it's just your responsibility to create that and the freedom to do so.
Joe Castellano: It is your responsibility to create it. I mean, we just had a study group yesterday that I organized around a pretty narrow topic of Niedermeyer's electroencephalography, and we had a neurologist that I'm quite friendly with present on alpha rhythms of the brain and the default mode network. And we had 18 people there. And after that we had an hour-long discussion about what are the implications for neurotherapy. And I mean, it's 18 like-minded professionals and we can meet by Zoom and it's really nice in that way.
For me I'm kind of an introvert and kind of an extrovert depending on my mood I guess, but generally I'm a pretty solitary human for the most part. I have a small circle of people that I'm close with including the two guys who work for me, we spend a lot of time together. And that's part of my approach, I mean; one I have a vision of building something that's bigger than just me. And the idea of just being in a room in a filing closet of sorts with a lot of different clinical rooms and just being on my own, that wouldn't be my way of being in the world. So I've built something that's different than that, that affords me a lot of different opportunities to have close friends in my work environment, to have a hand in shaping a company culture of continued education and ethical practice and supporting each other. And really that's a lot of fun for me to see folks growing and coming along and developing their skills.
And I mean, if you're going to go the independent practitioner model you will want to give some awareness to like especially 2020/2021 restricted exposure to people about where you're going to have that social contact because it's really important for your brain's wellness to interact with human beings, but it can be done. And you can also have a bit more of a selection process about who gets to be in that bubble with you.
Sasha Raskin: Yes. So today you're already working ... you grew into a group practice which is just, once again, you can be proactive and actually create the environment you want to be working at. And it might be a good idea to join one at the beginning.
Joe Castellano: Absolutely.
Sasha Raskin: To do it gradually. What were the main challenges if you rewind back to the beginning of your private practice? It wasn't all easy.
Joe Castellano: No, no, no, there was a lot of real stressful moments.
Sasha Raskin: So what were the biggest ones and how you overcame them?
Joe Castellano: Well, in private practice, I mean, one of the big things ... I mean, the work that I do is a bit cost-prohibitive because there's a lot of upfront hardware and software expenses, so that was quite a while of making a bit of money and reinvesting it and making and really like ... I mean, we're only a year and a half in, so I mean, the first year was really a growth phase and it was lean at times. And you know what I mean, something ... so that would be a big one. I mean, we had a partnership with a medical doctor who was providing insurance billing for us and administrative support around that which really the business grew so fast in that way, but the margins weren't as good and that business got acquired by a bigger company so now we've gone to a cash basis and we've rebuilt it now and we're doing better than we ever have. We're trying to grow responsibly because of the current health care crisis.
Sasha Raskin: I want to pause you for a moment because you mentioned something important. If you want you don't have to, but you mentioned that you had a big investment upfront. Now whether you mentioned the figures or not it was way bigger than the investment for "regular" talk therapist, counselor/coach.
Joe Castellano: Definitely. Way, way bigger. I mean, I got one, two, three EEG amplifiers, two current generators, a pulse EMF generator, another neurobiofeedback device. I mean, none of these boxes are cheap.
Sasha Raskin: So what would your advice be? Many times counselors are extremely scared of taking financial risks/investing in their business. And of course, different people have different abilities, and so far building a business without any investment I haven't seen that happen ever.
Joe Castellano: No, there's going to be ... but, I mean, if your investment is like a few couches and some chairs and a few things that hang on the wall and little things to make it a pleasant room to be in, that's not ... if that's prohibited then you're not ready to go. And I think that it's really important ... now I spent 12 years in the recruiting business as a prior career, so I have a different perspective that I hope is of value to people who listen to this. Check yourself in a Myers-Briggs sense of things, like what is your personality? Are you somebody who like is totally comfortable going out there and getting business and talking to people and can balance like being self-confident and having some modesty and humility in the way you present yourself, and yet still be kind of unapologetic that you have a practice and you have skills to bring to the world? Like, what is your mission to bring to the world? Why are you doing this?
And if you're going to own that in integrity and be like, "I'm here because I have a vision of what I'm going to do," then that vision probably needs the creative freedom for you to go do it for yourself. And if you're somebody who's like, "No, really that's not me. I don't like taking risk. I kind of like it when my job is like well-defined and here's the job description. And then the stuff that's outside that job description I have resistance doing it as my job." If you have an internal resistance at your place of employment that like I walked by the trash can and it's full and it's not my job to empty it, then like entrepreneurship may not be your gig, because all of that other stuff is like a whole other job.
And you're going to have to do both jobs - you're going to have to do the job of the clinical practice and continuing education and clinical support and who's going to be your supervisor, you're going to have to solve all of that. And then you're going to have to deal with where's my space, is my insurance documentation in order, do I have all my documentation on file correctly with the state? Do I have a bookkeeper, do I have an accountant, do I need people for that? If it's just you, you probably don't. If it's you and a couple other people ... be careful about trying to be your own bookkeeper, you might make a big mess for yourself.
So it's really important to check like what's your personality and what's your vision. And if you're somebody who's really passionate about like, "I have a mission. I am called to do this work in this way, with this population. And I'm going to go get it," then there's a lot of freedom and responsibility that comes with being an entrepreneur but it also gives you a capacity and opportunity to like bring your vision into the world. That if you work in an institutional setting they may or may not be very interested in your bigger vision like you have a job to do, that's your job, it's this box.
Sasha Raskin: Yes, nicely said. When I talk to counselors or coaches who try to build their business but they feel stuck, mostly what I see the biggest mistake is they focus only on creating clients and many times miss all the things you just mentioned. So in our private practice accelerator, the six figure practice, we use the model of the triangle of marketing, sales and operations or in different worlds be found, get hired and be professional. And you just mentioned the part about operations, be professional, right? It's how do you set up your business as a business, treat it as a business and not a hobby, and be very clear, "Is it your character to do that? Or, maybe it's not a good idea for you." Do you think; by the way, those skills can be learned?
Joe Castellano: Yes. I believe that almost all skills can be learned to a certain extent and there's always the question of how in alignment is it with your personality. And for me if I was going to try to be an accountant I'm just not that, just my brain doesn't work that way, it wouldn't work for me. But this triangle you speak of like marketing, be visible - now we had an interesting situation with my clinic because we could take insurance with basically a Facebook page and Psychology Today page, we were basically on a waiting list when the pandemic hit in the spring and with no website.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, this is such a unique situation when you build your practice to a full without a website and then kind of, "Okay, I guess it's time for me to have my website."
Joe Castellano: I don't know that we would have ever gotten it done without the shutdown. The quarantine was the catalyst that actually ... I kept saying like, "Why do I need to do this? I could barely keep up with my work. So why am I not going to do a revenue producing job so that I can work on having better marketing, I can't even keep up with the business I have?" It was a unique situation. And with the shutdown and then that company getting acquired, well, that was a huge reset for us, a pretty painful reset, a scary reset. And we moved our office in the middle of all that as well, but we did get a website up and we've got a newsletter up and we've created a mailing list and got a website up and running. Go to alpineneuro.com, check it out, it's still under construction but it's coming along all right. And now we've rebuilt the practice to healthier than it's ever been.
So I mean, the marketing is really important. And the next piece of that triangle, sales, really believing in what you're doing is so important. In my work it's kind of like describing the beauty of Korean poetry to somebody because it's EEG, it's squiggly lines and I'm looking at it and saying, "This is mildly concerning or this is very concerning." And people are like, "I don't know. It means nothing to me. You might be telling me that a Korean poem is beautiful, except these characters mean nothing to me. I don't know what it means. I have no context."
But they're trusting me, that like I've looked at a lot of these and I have confidence in what I'm saying. I believe in the skills and the mentoring and training I've done. I believe in the process of qEEG based neurotherapy. And I can sell that. I have an expertise around ADHD in particular, among others, but that's really where I'm the deepest. And when people come to me and they've been struggling for a long time with symptoms of ADD and ADHD I can sell that with integrity, that I really believe that this is going to help them in a way that medication is unlikely to, in a way that talk therapy is unlikely to. And with this work that I do if there's an inherent imbalance in the networks of someone's brain like you're not going to talk them out of it, it just doesn't work that way. We have to teach the brain how to regulate itself and then the symptoms tend to go away.
So the ability to sell that and reconcile that I'm both a clinician and I'm a business person and I have to hold these roles and hold the tension between those roles. That's part of being an entrepreneur and a very relevant part, because a lot of people ... Let me take a little different tack of this, like I mean, you and I met in grad school, Sasha.
Sasha Raskin: First day.
Joe Castellano: Yeah, first day. And it's been a while, but it's still I'm astonished that you can get a master's degree in any form of psychotherapy and not have had one class in small business management to know like you have to file, you have to form a corporation, what kind of corporation, you're going to need to talk to an accountant, you're probably going to have to talk to a lawyer. What's your vision? Like, think about that up front.
Sasha Raskin: That was a big sigh, just clarifying that. I struggled with that for years. And I'm an adjunct faculty at a university and all my efforts to bring business education to a field where people (a) spend three years, (b) pay tens of thousands of dollars and get only clinical education which is great, and good luck if you want to start your own private practice, right? It's almost as if you're encouraged to go only the employee route, which is fine, but what if you want to do it your way?
Joe Castellano: Well, I mean, this is an interesting dilemma in the field of counseling, and we'll just call it that for the moment. But I find it interesting, I'm studying currently for the national counselors exam that there's a huge piece of the curriculum of this on research methods and how many people who go to the master's level in psychotherapy or counseling, marriage and family, social work, etcetera, are going to go into research. Almost nobody goes into research without a PhD, but yet this is a big piece of the counseling exam. And that's interesting. We only have one class on that.
And when it comes to ... I mean, most people end up in private practice. And if you really want to make a good living for yourself at some point unless you're going to be an administrator in a larger mental health institution, to make a good living you're going to have to go into private practice. You're corralled that way economically.
And it's pretty difficult. I think what you're doing is fantastic, Sasha, the six figure practice, because there's so much emphasis placed on social justice and it's so deeply important and you shouldn't apologize about making a good living for yourself. You can't really help people if you're constantly under distress financially.
Sasha Raskin: I think they're so connected actually, social justice and owning your own business, because you can create like that money freedom for yourself, for your family. And you're not really doing any favor to your clients if you're living paycheck to paycheck, burnout, and maybe underpaid even and/or waiting for the session to end, looking at kind of being frustrated with your client or, oh, come on already. And if you build it as a successful business there's no limit to how much you can give, right? I have a very successful private practice and I have pro bono clients, I have a client who pays one dollar, and it's all doable because my business is structured as a successful business.
Joe Castellano: Absolutely. And we have several deeply sliding scale clients where people who come in here and they're really struggling and they can't afford it, and as long as they can work with us on the scheduling. And, I mean, I have a hard time giving away a 5:00PM slot to a deep sliding scale client when those slots are coveted and there's who really, really want them, so I mean, that's not fair to me to do that. But if they can come in, in the middle of the day, when we generally have some space and having the freedom to do that and not needing to clear it with somebody, like it's just, "This person is struggling. They can't afford this. And I'm going to help them. And I'm going to help them." Because it feels like the right thing to do, which is a huge piece of why I got into doing this work anyway, because I want to help people.
Sasha Raskin: And what I noticed is that if the business education is structured in a way that's (a) very clear, step-by-step, and very ... well, emphasizes implementation versus information, right? Instead of reading books let's just build it all, set up a business foundation for your practice, let's learn all the strategies for marketing, all the strategies for sales. It's actually not rocket science. It's really easy. You just need to do that. Like, we have participants who posted in the private Facebook group created two clients like in the first week or two weeks, right? It's not difficult. But it takes time and effort and investment in your business.
Joe Castellano: And this is ... in counseling people have a concern about like they really want to do things right, they don't want to say the wrong thing or give someone bad guidance, which is reasonable. With sales and marketing, and I mean, I spent 12 years, I mean, a good part of running a business not just as a recruiter or sales rep, but in the recruiting industry and in that industry the sense of like I would pick up the phone and call God, hand me the phone, I'll call anybody. I don't care, like they can say whatever they want to say, tell me F off, go away, never call me again. Like whatever, hang up the phone and call the next person.
And to just have a sense of like in a Buddhist sense of a detachment, like don't take it personally. And don't need to be perfect, like our website's constantly under construction and there's pages that are incomplete. And like, okay, whatever, like we'll get to that. We had to put something out there.
Sasha Raskin: Exactly.
Joe Castellano: And in sales and marketing being willing to try something, we started a newsletter and got almost no traction. And one of the guys who works for me was like, "I don't know. Like, what's the point of this?" I'm like, "Dude, it's not the first newsletter that's going to make it rain around here. Like, we're going to make a second newsletter." Once a month, I'm not going to send people an email every week - it's too much. Send them one a month and they might stay on the list and that's fine. But like it doesn't need to be the most incredible thing you've ever written - be simple, be to the point. "Here's my service. This is my mission. I'd love to help you," based on your condition, based on a given population I'm interested in, based on geographic location, whatever it is that calls you, but how you want to present yourself be willing to fail and try again and fail and try again.
And there's a certain amount of that that to be an entrepreneur you have to be willing to try things that go, "Well, that was a complete failure. Oh, well, let's try it again and see what happens. Like, maybe it's not such a big failure the second time." "Okay, that was a complete failure. We tried it three times and got nothing. Like, Facebook ads is not working for us. Let's not do that anymore. Let's go the Psychology Today route." For me personally I like public speaking about ADHD, about neurofeedback, about qEEG, and more advanced topics. And to speak at different forums is a really wonderful way that very reliably gets me new clients. I generally, I mean, sometimes I get paid to speak and sometimes I don't, but if I get a room full of people and I can talk about something I'm really passionate about somebody puts their hand up and says, "I need neurofeedback for myself, my loved one, my child, my co-worker," or was asking about this ... whatever it is, like something good always comes out of it. And that for me is a really reliable and enjoyable way to get business. I mean, I love public speaking to groups, but anyway, what else, Sasha?
Sasha Raskin: You're emphasizing that try comes before success.
Joe Castellano: Totally. Yoda had that wrong.
Sasha Raskin: What?
Joe Castellano: Yoda had that wrong, because Yoda said like, "Do or do not. There is no try." And I would say like in sales that's a bad strategy. You're going to have to try stuff and just laugh about what a failure it was, the thing you put on Facebook and nobody liked it and you're like, "Oh, my God. No. Oh, what do I do with that?" It's like whatever, try it again. If you try it four or five times and it's not working then do something different. But don't give up. It's really important.
Sasha Raskin: Let me ask you this, how do your clients find you? We talked about that this is not the most important question, but it is an important one for people who build their private practice. What's been most ... some of the most successful strategies for you and maybe they were different at the beginning of your private practice and from what they are today?
Joe Castellano: Well, I had a lot of clients follow me when I went out on my own which has a bit of an ethical pitfall for a lot of people. I didn't have a non-compete and it was ... I'm still quite in amicable terms with my former employer, but ... so that was from go. And then when we were able to take insurance just having a psychology page and a LinkedIn page was enough.
Sasha Raskin: A LinkedIn page. Can you say more about that?
Joe Castellano: It was just a basic thing, having a profile and posting some research and posting research to groups and just kind of like letting therapist communities know that I was doing neurofeedback and neurotherapy here in Boulder County because there's not that many people who do it.
Word of mouth has been perhaps the best, the number one. The effects of neurofeedback tend to speak for themselves and people often have pretty profound experiences where their symptoms improve quite dramatically. So word of mouth and things where some kid was really struggling and then he goes on a play date or to a birthday party and other parents are like, "Whoa, little Susie's like shifted. Just in a way more regulated place. Like, what's up with that? Johnny's in a different place all of a sudden." So that kind of word of mouth has been a really good source of business for us.
And public speaking, quite reliably. Getting involved in community outreach work has also been helpful. And be careful with your time around that one. Some of the social issues that face our society are so deep that you could easily give away more than you really can afford to, so trying to find the balance that you have to take care of yourself too is really important I think.
And getting the website up. And now since I've been doing more public speaking and I'm doing more mentoring of neurofeedback and that's really also opened up a lot of referrals for me. And getting involved in industry groups specifically in the neurotherapy world. And people have a sense that I have a decent idea of what I'm doing and they're comfortable referring to me and often if ... I mean, we put flyers up at CU which is a really good source of business. We put flyers up at climbing gyms. I've been an avid rock climber for quite a while and have a real ... I mean, alpine neurotherapy, I used to do a lot of alpine climbing and the love of the mountains and the love of this work kind of like brought me to the name and so that's been also a great source of referrals.
And really making a point to reach out to people. The parent engagement network, the national alliance on mental illness, Joy Redstone over at the Naropa counseling centers. You have to have this sort of entrepreneurial spirit that like a certain amount of your time and energy has got to be about building bridges to people that you're going to collaborate and refer to and who will collaborate and refer to you. And be clear with your time, if you've done a lot of collaboration with people and it doesn't seem to come back and you keep referring to them but nothing comes your way like you might want to try referring to somebody else as long as you feel they're up to the job.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah, totally. So in the private accelerator we do it systemically, building a network. What would your advice be not on the strategy but more on the mindset part of it? I can't even count how many times I hold counselors mention the fear of putting myself out there, right? And it can be as crippling as publishing a website, right? Because it's not ... like the logo is not perfect or you're pointing to yourself. Or it can be this outreach effort, right? There are so many people who can help you build your practice by referring people to you and vice versa, right? Well, for lack of better term, the cake is big enough, right? It's not a zero-sum game, you can go with other practitioners together and help each other and create a network of people who help people.
Joe Castellano: Absolutely.
Sasha Raskin: And in terms of mentality, how should one work with this fear of putting myself out there?
Joe Castellano: Well, it's going to be different for different people. For me publishing a website and having it be imperfect was something that produced a tremendous amount of anxiety. And I still have a lot of anxiety about what's out there, because some of it wasn't all written by me and sometimes I'm like, "Well, that language isn't exactly correct." And unless people know QEEG like they're probably not going to know that anyway, but my peers would know it and that makes me self-conscious.
For the topics that I have built slide decks for, hand me a microphone - I'm happy to get up in front of anybody, I'll be just fine. That actually I enjoy that, it's fun for me.
Picking up the phone and calling folks and trying to build a relationship. I mean, in my world I'm always trying to build relationships with psychiatrists and neurologists. And many of them have very, very successful practices and they're not interested in what I have to say, but yet sometimes just like something pops up and just follow it. When you pick up the phone and call the person and say, "Hi, this is me. I'd love to hear about what you do. Maybe we can help each other. Would you like to have lunch?" I mean, nowadays people are a little adverse to that, but maybe we'd go for a walk.
Sasha Raskin: Joe, let's do ... I love specifics.
Joe Castellano: The question was about the mindset.
Sasha Raskin: Yeah.
Joe Castellano: And so if I could, I mean, in quick time go through like there's the mindset of marketing which, I mean, you talk about sort of a portfolio approach which until you know what's going to work you're going to have to try a lot of different things and just accept that and just it's part of it. I'm going to try this, I'm going to flip the rock, I'm going to flip the rock, I'm going to flip the rock - most of it's not going to work, like most of it is not going to work. But you don't need it all to work. You're only one person. But you need to put these ... you get your line in the water and see what's going to work.
On the sales side a certain amount of this, and this is where I think a lot of counselors struggle, is the notion of how to put yourself in a sales mindset that you have value, you've gone through a lot of education, you've written a lot of papers, read a lot of books, you've gone to a lot of lectures, you've networked, like you swim in this stuff. Like, you have gifts to give to the world. Don't sell yourself short.
Really think about what your time is really worth and then ask that and say, "This is what my time is worth." Based on what other people are charging, based on what the market can bear without gouging people. Like unapologetically, "This is what my time costs." And I can decide that I'm going to negotiate or not. I mean, just to share a story before I forget, that somebody comes in in an M series BMW and wants a sliding scale on the rates, I'm like, "Dude, I mean, you drove up here in a 60, $70,000 car. Why should I drop my rates for you? I'm trying to make a living here."
Sasha Raskin: Because it's expensive.
Joe Castellano: It is expensive and they're welcome to ask. And being clear as a salesperson, as a business person where you're willing to bend and where you're not.
Sasha Raskin: So being clear on your boundaries.
Joe Castellano: The mindset of ... And part of healthy boundaries is your own boundaries and being willing to walk away. If something doesn't feel right for you, if you feel like, "Hey, this person's taking advantage of me," listen to that a little bit. You can take it to your supervisor if you think you need to or a professional support group. But the mindset of having a vision, working on that vision diligently and like finding the joy in it of just the unknown and you just don't know. I mean, with counseling people come in and you don't know what's going to come in the room when they walk in the door. But it's different when you have to like go out into the world and project yourself and say, "Hey, look, like I think what I'm doing is really special and I'm calling in these kinds of clients and this population and this is what I'm charging." And when you talk to people like you might want ... if you're going to have a real referral relationship with people you might want to like get clear with each other about like, "Hey, where's your sliding scale limit? Like, if the person can't afford to pay this where might you not be interested?"
These kinds of conversations are often awkward and uncomfortable, but it's really important to be willing. As an entrepreneur you've got to be willing to discuss the business details of your business appropriately. And if you're going to take on as I did, I mean, I've got an office, I have two people working for me, we're looking to hire a third, something to remember as you grow and like, yes, there's an economy of scale and if it all works out you can do better than you would have done on your own, but as an entrepreneur if you have some ridiculous thing like we've encountered in 2020 where all of a sudden the market goes against you, like you're the person who eats last. Everybody else ...
Sasha Raskin: This is so important, Joe. I specifically am talking about how you pivoted your business and how flexible you are and able to adjust to external circumstances. I listened to this Dan Kennedy program and he was talking about that crisis doesn't necessarily hurt businesses; it mostly exposes businesses that are not set up well and are not flexible enough. We have one participant in our private practice accelerator who is offering massages, like that's his thing. And Covid hit and he cannot touch people, right? Especially at the beginning when we were cleaning surfaces all the time, that was like the big thing, right?
So he found a way to pivot. He started offering online packages teaching people how to do self-massage especially for the face and the eyes and people started buying. So it's like the ability to be flexible and creative and not buy into excuses. Could you say about the importance of pivoting? Maybe using your own example, how were you able to succeed even during the pandemic?
Joe Castellano: Well, there's a few pieces. I got very lucky, and right as we were about to go on a waiting list I got a corporate account to process files for a chapter of the Denver fire department, and they basically brought a truck up to my office and dumped 45 sets of EEG's and said, "Here, we want you to process all of this."
Sasha Raskin: Was it just luck?
Joe Castellano: No, I mean, I made my own luck. I was in the right position. I'd thought about ... I mean, as a person who worked in the recruiting industry to me thinking about like who am I partnering with, what's the potential of this, this doctor, that office, this chiropractor, an eye doctor, because I look at EEG's and if the eyes aren't tracking symmetrically I'm like, "Oh, you need to go see an eye doctor." I need somebody to refer those people to. Internal medicine. So I'm constantly thinking in those ways about building my referral network, which is part of being able to pivot, because if you just think like an island you don't have a lot of flexibility to pivot.
And also an important and something I think gets lost in the current ethos is this like everybody needs to create their own job mindset. Like, be realistic about your resources, and that's your time, your skills, your financial resources. And don't get into a situation where you need to pivot but you have no resources to do that, because that could be really ... there's a lot of people like go build your own job, go build your own. Not everybody's cut out to go build their own job. But a lot of people are. So being able to pivot.
We went into the shutdown with no website. And I was like, "All right, hell or high water, we are going to get this website up and we have to get this done now." We ended up using the time to ... we got our books caught up because we'd grown so fast and that was a big project, we got the website, we got our technology infrastructure cleaned up, we went through and tested every piece of equipment, every cable, like everything. And just really said, "All right, like in this uncertain times what can we do? Let's do that. And let's really use this time as productively as we can." And in the early phase of this when everybody's like, "Look, I have no data about what's coming. It sounds really scary. I don't know. Are we going to get hit hard, are we not?" Nobody knew. So everybody was really ... I was very quick to shut my office down and pull all the equipment out.
And then as we started to pivot we got the website up, we got a newsletter up. I was like, "All right, during this time I'm going to work on getting myself asked to do talks and reach out to people." I like public speaking, I have some really nice slide decks - let me get in touch with some organizations and see about presenting this material. And that got things going.
And something in being able to pivot really involves a mindset of determinants duration that you are going to endure, whatever this comes to, and I've been through in my Wall Street career, the rise and fall of the dot coms, the rise and collapse of recruiting for automated trading, the rise and collapse of the mortgage market, 9/11. So this is for me like my fifth recession. So one of the things that I said to, I had one employee and then two, was like we may not be able to really measure our progress during this time but we're going to try in a calm, focused way to every day get up and work on something. Try and figure it out. I'm going to do heart rate variability training by Zoom. Did that work? Not really. So we stopped doing it. Could it work? Sure. If somebody was really passionate about that work, they would call it in. I'm not that passionate. I mean, I believe in it but I'm not ... it's not my passion.
And that enthusiasm ... people ... it's contagious, people just feel. If you really love what you do people are going to feel that. But to be able to pivot involves being able to see opportunities sometimes that are missed by others. And even seeing that what you have to do even if there's 10 other people offering the same thing, if you believe in yourself that you can do this work skillfully then do it. And really like every step, every day get up, I got to work on time, okay, I got to work on time and I'm working on these things. And for me like whenever I feel like my compass is wavering, like to just get clear about like, "These are my priorities. Let me write them down on my board and be like, 'Okay, I'm going to write down everything I need to get done.'" And it's going to sit until I cross it all off the list.
And to be an entrepreneur you have to wear a lot of hats. So there's a time to be in the operations role, there's a time to be in marketing, there's a time to be in sales, there's a time that you have to retreat and not surrender but retreat and just take care of yourself.
And in order to pivot, I mean, some people have a really good knack, I believe that's one of my skills as being ... I mean, I got introduced to neurofeedback eight years ago and just instantly I was like, "This is going to change everything." I still believe that, I believed it then, I've never looked back, I've never questioned myself about that. And when I hear people are like questioning it and doubting it I'm like, "Whatever." I'm not trying to convince them. They've already made their mind up. I'm interested in that person and that person, I want to tell you about what I can do for you, how this can help you if you're interested, if you want to know about it.
And I'm really clear, I refer out for counseling. I have almost no counseling clients on my caseload anymore, it's all ... and the stuff that I do do is stimulation-based, so somebody has issues with executive function and we may run theta frequencies through your frontal lobe and hand you a clipboard and have you work through your task list and create it while we're actually helping your brain do it. And then I didn't write it for you, you wrote it, we gave you a little nudge. And I believe in this work.
So I mean, to be able to pivot in difficult times requires a sense of determination, not forcing it but just like an internal well that I believe in what I'm here to do, I believe this work is going to help people, and whatever the world throws at me, no matter how blown out and defeated I feel when I get home at six or seven o'clock at night, I'm going to do my best to take care of myself and get up and try to meet the day with a cheerful attitude and try again and keep trying.
And over time like everybody has to go through this like phases of forming a group, there's no way around the storming phase, you're not going to do that. If you're going to really build a private practice you're going to have to believe in yourself when people will question you and will tell you about why they doubt you and you're going to need to hear it, check yourself and say, "Okay, is there something for me to learn here? Is there a skill I need to develop? Is there something in the way I presented myself that seems uncertain about my mission and that they're picking up on?" And the more in alignment you are with what you're here to do, like for me, like the motivation comes much easier.
And also, I mean, a little lost maybe not the right spot in the conversation, but to be an entrepreneur there's a certain amount of like you're going to have to attend to whatever your Achilles heel is in this pile. It could be bookkeeping, it could be administrative work, it could be the website, probably the website. Like, you're probably going to have to write most of it yourself, but like hand that stuff off to somebody else. Don't try to be what you're not. You're going to have to build up your resources to afford it.
But if something is really just so out of alignment and so difficult and such a struggle for you, as an entrepreneur you're going to probably want to hire a consultant who's going to come in and do that. So your time is best spent doing the thing that makes your heart sing.
Sasha Raskin: No need to do it on your own. There are three ways I think someone can grow their business. You can DIY it, do it yourself. You can hire other people to do it all for you, done for you, DFY. Or, you can do it ... you can go with the DIW approach, do it with you. And I probably got the acronyms totally mixed, that's my ADHD speaking out here. And you can hire someone to write your text or you can join our program and we'll teach you how to write a good marketing text that feels authentic. And it's not, again, not a rocket science. You don't have to do this alone.
And I don't think it's a coincidence, Joe, that you built your ... you reached a point of waiting list like I think like in a less than a year or so because you had all this business experience that many counselors and coaches and people who go into private practice are lacking. So whether it's with us or with someone else, definitely advise anyone who listens to this right now to go and get that education. You already know how to help people, now you need to, if you go into your own private practice; learn how to get those people to help.
Joe Castellano: Yes. I had a 12-year prior career in recruiting so I came up the ranks as a junior recruiter, senior recruiter, sales rep, senior sales rep, time at a large hedge fund on the corporate side, seven years of running my own recruiting business and managing a team of people who are doing this work. And that has definitely shaped my perspective of how to hold the tension between being a clinician and analyst and a business person. And you have to hold the tension, like there's no way around that if you're going to go off on your own.
And you're going to want to think about what Sasha said, this wrap around, and getting your mindset to like, "Oh, I would refer for this," well, then you need a person in that box. I would refer people for that, well, then you need to go get a person who's in that box and you're probably going to have to go get them - a chiropractor, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, an acupuncturist. You're going to want someone who does spiritual healing work or someone who does divination or somebody who's a neurologist, like all of these things. I want to refer to somebody who's doing psychedelic assisted therapy, I'm not going to do that, I need somebody who does that so that when it comes up I go, "Great, here's my one, two, three." I need a somatic therapist, here's my one, two, three.
And when you funnel people out enough like it will come back to you in ways you'll never be able to predict. It's my experience. Like, trying to predict who's going to refer who or what or somebody, Sasha gets an account and the new account that he's got has got a group of people and those group of people are ... and all of a sudden I get a pile of referrals. That's amazing. Like, I didn't know what was going to happen but sometimes it just does. But you have to be up at bat a lot of times.
Sasha Raskin: Yes.
Joe Castellano: And when it comes to things like writing a website or business card, logo design, like if it's not your jam just hire somebody. And you can draw it on a whiteboard or you can give it a shot, but I'm a big believer that like in general the bulk of your time should be spent on the things that make your heart sing.
Sasha Raskin: Yes.
Joe Castellano: And the things that are really your Achilles heels that's where I look to hire somebody. I'm not interested in being my own bookkeeper.
Sasha Raskin: Joe, this has been so inspiring. Thank you for this wealth of information. If people want to find you, what's your website?
Joe Castellano: Alpineuro.com. I'm here in South Boulder. And we're pretty close to being on a waiting list now but we do have amplifiers coming in for remote growth therapy so come check it out and feel free to reach out to me if you found this helpful.
Sasha Raskin: Take care, Joe. Thank you so much.
Joe Castellano: All right, take care, Sasha.